Fiction,  Happy New Year,  The Writing Life

RESOLUTIONS OR GOALS?

For the past few years I have been feeling less and less enthusiastic about setting any resolutions for the new year. Last year I didn’t bother at all. It’s not surprising really. Resolutions are vague promises we make to ourself year after year about the changes we would like to see in our life and year after year we disappoint. That has been my experience, at least. So, why bother, when failure is mere weeks, or maybe even days away?

This year instead of quitting on the resolutions, I decided to give some thought as to why they are doomed, seemingly before we are out of the starting gate. What is the difference, after all, between setting goals and making resolutions? Well that, as it turns out makes all the difference.

A goal is a statement of what you want to achieve, the steps to achieve it and a timeline by which to hit your target. A resolution is more broad and overarching with no particular timeline for achieving it, and involves making a change for the better. For example, I may decide to make a New Year Resolution to write more in 2024. The tricky part and the reason most of us fail at these resolutions is because, although well-intentioned, there is not a plan for actually achieving them. The plan is where we move into goal territory. The resolution point us in the right direction. The goal lends the “how-to.”

It’s all about the planning. The planning is what gives the clear direction and makes the chance of success greater when trying to reach a goal. There are some things I’ve decided are important when planning my goals for 2024. First of all, ask Why? Why is this a goal? I need to know why this is important to me so that I’ll be motivated to follow the steps and work toward the targeted completion date. Another important factor for me is that the goal be achievable and broken into small, achievable steps. I’ve learned so much from the book Atomic Habits. If I set a goal like write every day, and then on Day 2 I get a migraine and don’t write, then I’ve already failed. I need to have more flexible goals, with smaller steps so that I can build up to the bigger goals, just as you would in developing successful habits. Instead, I might choose to write 3 or 5 days a week for a minimum of 30 minutes each time to start so that I can be successful. To get a novel written, I already know I’ll need to write more often than that, but it’s a start. Maybe I’ll decide to try that for one month and then increase the time and/or increase the days/week. The idea is to make it achievable within your schedule and your life. Not your dream writing schedule. You want to actually succeed at this.

Another thing I am going to try this year is to have contingency plans for those days when things don’t go as planned. What else could I do toward my writing goals, even if I can’t work on my edits or write on my computer? Maybe I can compose scenes on paper away from the glare of the computer, or listen to an audiobook about writing, if I have a headache. I’m going to do some brainstorming to come up with other contingency plans for days when life interrupts.

Speaking of interruptions…Wasting time was an issue for 2023 so this year I have already book space in the public library to get away from household distractions and provide defined writing time when I am not available for other errands. So exciting!

This January, I feel that I am off to a good start with some specific goals and to be honest, I am thinking more along the line of monthly goals instead of year-long resolutions. That way, if I get off-track, the next month will be a fresh start. I’ll keep you posted! (Another goal!)

Good Luck!

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